Timing is everything: Making the most of your Annual Appeal

Once upon a time, I worked for an organization that exemplified why best practices are a necessity when timing an annual appeal.

They were a great organization that helped many needy kids in Boston… Let’s call them the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too (Derek Center for short). Derek Center was well supported by a large donor base and many people who were attached to the mission, passionate about the organization, and donated consistently.  

Every year when it came time to send out their annual appeal, they struggled with the language used. They wanted to show that they valued everyone’s ideas, and so they got


  and stuck…

and stuck.

Finally, one year they got so stuck that their appeal did not come out until the second week of…January!

Now, statistically we all anticipate the impact of sending an appeal that late.  And you will not be shocked in hearing the results. Derek Center’s income was down 40% from the years when they put their appeal out in mid-December.

In a perfect world, this would be a prime example for learning from your mistakes. But did the loss of more than $60,000 stop them from making this mistake again?  Of course not. The next year the appeal went out in January, again.  

Even more so than the original mistake/loss of fundraising dollars, compounding it does a huge disservice to the organization. It is not just the money that was lost by the late appeal, it is the impact it has on donors.  

Your donors are your biggest asset, and because of this your database needs to be treated with care and love. People are creatures of habit- every December we each get many appeals and we sift through them to find the organizations that resonate with us individually and those are the organization to which we contribute. If Derek Center’s appeal isn’t a part of that pile, then Derek Center will not be the “chosen one.”

What’s the big deal with timing?

Funny you should ask; here are the reasons (all practical and statistically sound) to send your appeal out to individual donors in early-to-mid December.

If your organization is missing from a donor’s December pile of appeals, absent from social media and not in the front of their mind,  there will be another organization there to take your place.  Each year you are not there at the right time, your organization falls further and further down the rabbit hole of your donors’ thoughts. Out of sight, out of mind;  something you definitely do not want.

A lot of large, national organizations send appeals out every month. While not practical for the small to medium organizations many of us work for, there are lessons to be learned and best practices to be copied.  More on that in our next post,  how to attract the most donors to your appeal.

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